Otis: A Timeless Story About Friendship

by Katie DeGuglielmo

Katie DeGuglielmo, a true Jumpstart veteran, is Jumpstart’s former National Program Coordinator. Katie joined Jumpstart as a Corps member at Tufts University and then became a Jumpstart Site Manager for Jumpstart’s Northeast team; shortly thereafter she joined Jumpstart’s National Program team.

In celebration of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record®, Katie shares the “why” behind choosing Otis as the official Read for the Record 2013 campaign book. Read for the Record is one of Katie’s favorite times of the year.

Putt puff puttedy chuff. Otis, the old tractor’s soothing purr lulls his loyal friend, the calf, softly to sleep.

The scene reminds me of Lydia, a dear Jumpstart child, and her beloved “Blankie.” Blankie comforted her every day, beginning with her first day home from the hospital. Even when all that remained was little more than torn rags of blanket stuffing, Lydia was steadfast and packed Blankie snuggly into her backpack.

Many of us know children like this – clinging loyally to a beloved toy or object. The nostalgia in recalling the memory of Blankie is why I am thrilled about the selection of Loren Long’s Otis for Jumpstart’s eighth Read for the Record campaign.

Otis is fun and educational – a marvelous story to share with a young child in your life. Children quickly warm to the lively illustrations of Otis and the calf leapfrogging bales of hay. There are wonderfully rich vocabulary words for adults and children to discuss together (such as bawl, explode, stall, and rumbling).

Otis will prompt you to recount play-filled childhood days just like Otis and the calf enjoy together.

But there is something else in this book that speaks loudly to me, and I bet it will to you too – the phasing out of the old for the new. One day, Otis’ farmer excitedly introduces a shiny new tractor to his barn of animals and farm tools. Sure, the new tractor is bigger and stronger than little Otis. But the new tractor doesn’t have it all. Otis waits faithfully for the day when there is something the farmer needs that the new tractor just can’t do. When trouble comes to the farm, Otis springs to action and saves the day.

The farmer’s excitement for his shiny, new tractor made me stop and wonder: How often do we eagerly await something shiny and new? And what is the value we receive when we trade in the old for the new? The lines of customers outside of a certain high-profile, shiny new tech store on a Saturday morning offer some evidence that we may be trading in the old more often than we realize.

Otis gently reminds us of an old wisdom. Some old things are loyal and trusty. They might rattle and putt puff puttedy chuff, but those rattles are familiar and comforting. Some things that are old will know when we need them and gladly oblige.

I love Otis because it gives us an excuse to talk with our children about this very wisdom. As they earnestly insist that we buy them the next shiny new toy, we can remind children of Otis. Shiny new things aren’t necessarily better than those that are faithful and old.

And speaking of things that are old, Jumpstart’s 20th anniversary brings up similar feelings of nostalgia for me. We have grown and changed, and we have some shiny new things to offer. But the heart of our programming is comfortingly the same. Adults and children sharing a book together, finding joy in learning and working towards the day every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed.

We hope you will join us in reading Otis on October 3, 2013 in support of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record!

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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